By Ms.Madhu Mati
Violence against women are one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human right abuses. However, it is regrettable to witness that such violations against women, are not identified as a severe human rights issue by most of the people, but only as an issue pertaining to the cultural and traditional setbacks of the patriarchal Indian society. According to NFHS-4 (National Family Health Survey – 4) released by the Union Health Ministry of India, every third woman in India has faced domestic violence of various forms, since the age of 15. Domestic violence cases, where women reported physical abuse in rural areas were 29%, and in urban areas were 23%. Abuse can be of any form, such as physical, emotional, sexual, verbal and economical. Marital rape and dowry demands prevail to be the causes for domestic violence against married women. On the other hand, for unmarried women, the experience of physical violence is caused by the most common agents, which include mothers or step-mothers (55%), fathers or step-fathers (34%), sisters or brothers (28%), and teachers (14%).
The Indian Constitution uses section 498A of the Indian penal code (IPC), to protect married women from in marriage household from cruelty. IPC section 375 contemplates forced sex in marriage as a crime, only in the cases where the wife is under the age of 15. Marital rape victims are protected by the law under Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 (PWDVA), by providing them with relief. The PWDVA came into force in 2006, and outlaws marital rape. However, it simply offers a civil remedy for the offence, which in most of the circumstances, don’t meet the requirements neither to be a proper compensation, nor as the justice to the victims. Furthermore,it is stated that every instance of sexual harassment is a violation of the fundamental rights of woman to equality under Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution and her right of life and to live with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution and right to practise any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business which includes a right to a safe environment free for sexual harassment.
In the recent times, acid attacks have also arisen as a common cruelty inflicted upon women and girls. Acid attacks are not mere actions of violation of human rights of women, but also have a perpetual troubling impact on the survivor, both physically and psychologically. It is also a violation of right to life of the affected women. This cruel act is deeply rooted in the male chauvinistic attitude of society and discrimination on the basis of sex. By and large, it is the former boyfriend or a person who had put forth a love or marriage proposal to the girl and got rejected by her, who inflicts the crime.It threatens to breach a woman’s freedom while infringing upon her right to life and personal liberty. Further, it violates the victim’s fundamental right of being an equal citizen of the society, as per articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution. The Indian Penal Code was amended in 2013 which recognized, defined and penalized acid attacks and its attempts, by including sections 326A and 326B. In the case of Laxmi vs. Union of India, the Supreme Court stated that the victims of acid attacks shall be paid a compensation of at least Rs. 3 lakhs by the concerned state or union territory, which includes the post medical care and rehabilitation cost.
The most violent and demoralising violence committed upon women is rape. Regardless of age, family background, economic status, etc., many girls and women turn out to be the victims for rape. According to the latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, every fourth rape victim across the country in 2018 was a minor. More than 50 percent of the victims were of the age 18 to 30. In around 94% of the cases, the offenders were no strangers to the victims- family members, friends, live-in partners, employers, colleagues or such closely known people. In 2018, 33356 rape cases were reported, with an average of 89 cases of rape on a daily basis. In 2017, the report stated a number of 32559 rape cases, while in 2016, the number stood at 38947. On the whole, 27.8% of the rape victims were minors and 72.2% of them were above the age of 18. In 2018, 51.9 % rape victims (17,636) were aged between 18 and 30 years, 18 % (6,108) above 30 and below 45 years, 2.1 % (727) above 45 and below 60 years and 0.2 %(73) above 60 years, it showed. According to the NCRB, 14.1 % rape victims (4,779) were aged above 16 years and below 18 years, followed by 10.6 % (3,616) who were between 12 and 16 years, 2.2 % (757) who were between 6 years and 12 years and 0.8 % (281) were below 6 years. To our dismay, even women take part or help the men committing rape onto other women or girls. Under Indian Constitution, section 375 and 376 define and state the punishment for the offence of rape.
Although awareness is being created upon such violence committed against women, the impact of the protests and laws established or amended for this cause, seems to be very minimal. The rate of crimes against women is constantly rising over years, despite all the laws and awareness being spread. The sensational Nirbhaya rape case of 2012 resulted in massive emotional outburst of the whole country, with such mass-rallies and protests and also captured major spotlight of media. But it did not pull down the rate of sexual assaults, rapes or domestic violence in the country. The statistical reports on the violence against women are always up the graph, and have not had a significant decrease in numbers. People have become modern and civilized only in their external appearance and identities. But the cruelty and perverted- evil animal continues to wander within many men. On a general basis, talking about crimes inflicted upon women, involves unnecessary inclusion of the terms “feminism” and “generalising all men as guilty”. People must start realizing that mere talk about the rights of women is not feminism, but a freedom of expression and a right that all women deserve, and the protestors also should be very clear while accusing – not all men are devils. It is high time that people realize that women deserve to be respected and be supported when they bring out a violence committed against them. But in the first place, all of us must admit that violence against women is also a violation of human rights. This is a very crucial, and in fact, the initial step to promote awareness about the rights of women in the society. India is no more a “patriarchal, backward” society, but a thriving nation, which does not have any gender-based violence. The first step towards a civilized, developed nation is the people having full knowledge about their rights and duties, and respecting them. We need to stand up for our rights and the rights of others to avert violence against women and to raise awareness of its effects. To do this, we must continue to listen, believe and support survivors and support partners, implementing a zero-tolerance against violence against women.